How do you conserve something that you aren't sure is there? The answer is simple: go make sure you know what's there. That's why Brazil is starting a massive census of its rainforest trees, counting each and every one so that it knows what is there and thus how to conserve the forests.
The AFP reports, "The planned tree census, set to take four years, 'will allow us to have a broad panorama of the quality and the conditions in the forest cover,' the ministry said in a statement. The head of the national forest service said that the survey will provide a detailed knowledge of the rainforest, which has been under environmental threat from logging and climate change."
So how does a team even begin such a monumental task?
Fast Company writes, "Teams sent across Brazil’s 3,288,000 square miles, encompassing about half of the world’s remaining tropical forest, will sample about 20,000 points at 20-kilometer intervals. Researchers will log the number, height, diameter, and species of trees, along with soil types, biomass carbon stocks, and even local people’s interactions with the forest at each site. Once completed, it will the most comprehensive national inventory in Brazil since 1983."
The entire effort is part of Brazil's plan to reduce its 2004 deforestation rates by 80% by 2020. But it has to know what all is there, where, what it needs and how it is threatened in order to reach such an ambitious and important goal. In 2010, a study led by Brazil's National Institute of Special Research noted that half of the Amazon could be gone by 2050, which would be the tipping point beyond which the rainforests could never recover. So a census of this scale and the ensuing conservation measures couldn't be coming at a more important moment.